Romantic chemistry between men and women is a mysterious thing.
How do you define or predict it? You can’t.
You’ve probably had this experience: You go out with two different women. They’re equally attractive. They may even have similar backgrounds and interests.
Yet you have an unmistakable chemistry with one and no spark with the other. Weird, isn’t it?
Recently, I had a first date with a woman I met online. Her profile pictures were great. I liked how she described herself. We started emailing. She was a good, clever writer.
We talked on the phone. Again, we connected. She seemed fun, undemanding and self-confident. I couldn’t wait to meet. I just knew we’d be a good match. I can’t remember the last time I felt so confident about a first date.
We met at a Starbucks (where else, right?). She was blonde and attractive, just as in her photo. But we had absolutely no chemistry – and we both knew it. Yes, we could carry on a pleasant conversation without awkward silences. But it was as if we were co-workers, not two people on a date.
Over the coffee, she said she planned to go shopping later in the day. I said I was going to play golf. She used the information to deftly end the date 40 minutes after it began.
“Well, I guess you’d better get to the golf course, and I’d better get to the mall,” she said perkily.
“You’re right,” I said.
We walked to the parking lot together. When we eyed our cars, she extended her hand.
“It was nice to meet you,” she said.
“Nice to meet you too,” I replied.
Chemistry is hard to define
In the dating world, a handshake – instead of a hug or even a pat on the back – is a sign that the date was a dud. And this one was a dud.
Now there’s a difference between a blah date, as I described, and an awful date. An awful date occurs when you meet someone who isn’t your type at all and has an annoying habit, such as smacking when she eats or saying “like” repeatedly.
On my recent blah date, the woman and I had similar backgrounds, values, interests and plans for the future. Plus, she was attractive enough for chemistry to exist – but it didn’t. Why?
“When dating someone you experience chemistry with, there is a lot going on behind the scene…Neurons are firing in your brain, releasing chemicals. Brain cells send signals determining whom we are attracted to, and those to stay away from. Scientists are still trying to figure out why we receive warnings about some people and warm fuzzies about others.”
Webmd.com has an article titled “The Science Behind Romance” that quotes Dr. Helen Fisher, a cultural anthropologist from Rutgers University.
“We are drawn to certain people not only for cultural reasons, such as socioeconomics, intelligence and values, but also for biological reasons,” she says.
Fisher has written a book called Why Him? Why Her? She explores the chemical roots of romantic attraction. Parts of the book aren’t easy reading.
A complicated explanation of attraction
“The activity of and interactions between chemical systems are governed by many factors,” Fisher writes, “including the amount of production of the neurotransmitter or hormone; the enzymes controlling the production of each neurochemical; the sensitivity and/ or number of postsynaptic receptors that receive the chemical; the sensitivity of postsynaptic receptors that regulate the production of the neurochemical through a negative feedback system; and catabolism mechanisms regulated by enzymes such as MAO and others.”
Fisher, it turns out, is the chief scientific advisor to the dating website Chemistry.com. She simplifies her message to potential subscribers to the site.
“Starting a relationship should be fun,” Fisher writes. “It is good for the mind and body. And, fun is good for love. Did you know any kind of novel game is likely to drive up dopamine in the brain? It’s the natural stimulant that can make you more susceptible to romance.”
Fisher may be smart, but I doubt she – or anyone else – really understands why two people experience romantic chemistry.
Love remains a mystery – and that’s OK with me. The mystery makes dating fun. Despite reading a woman’s online dating profile, seeing her pictures and even talking with her, you never know if you’ll have chemistry until you meet.
And then you’ll know in a matter of minutes – or even seconds.
Don’t try to figure out love. Don’t try to define the exact characteristics of a woman you could love. You can’t order up a partner like you’d order a burger in the drive-through. Simply roll the dice and go on a bunch of dates. You’ll never know when you might hit the jackpot.